Joey Villasenor and Chris Camozzi fought to a split draw Friday. | Photo: Daniel Archuleta/Sherdog.com
RIO RANCHO, N.M. -- There was plenty of disappointment to go around following the Shark Fights 15 main event on Friday night.
The quality of the evening’s featured bout was not the problem, as Joey Villasenor and Chris Camozzi fought tooth-and-nail for 15 competitive minutes at the Santa Ana Star Center. But, when the judges’ scorecards were revealed, both fighters were left to contemplate the most unsatisfying of all results: a draw.
In the aftermath of the decision -- scored 29-28, 28-29 and 29-29 -- the general consensus from both camps was that Villasenor took the opening frame on the strength of his takedowns and positional dominance, and Camozzi followed by finding his range in the second, most notably landing several knees and uppercuts in the period. The final round was the most difficult to score, as Villasenor and Camozzi had a series of spirited exchanges.
It was judge Robert Romero who saw the bout 29-28 for Camozzi, while Jenna Vasquez had it 29-28 for Villasenor. Mark Sanchez had the bout 29-29, cementing the split draw.
As he iced his shins with his Colorado-based team around him, Camozzi reflected on missed opportunities.
“There’s more I could have done,” said the “Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 competitor. “I don’t blame the judges myself. All in all, I just tried to keep coming forward, put the fight to him and just keep him backing up.”
Meanwhile, Villasenor almost didn’t make it to the cage after battling the flu all week. The illness persisted such that the Strikeforce veteran considered withdrawing from the bout on Wednesday. But it was the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product’s first scheduled fight in his home state since 2005, so he battled through the final five pounds of an exhausting weight cut and then battled Camozzi for three rounds in hopes of putting a two-fight losing streak to rest.
“I came this far -- I prepared to fight. I didn’t want to let anybody know. Camozzi was tough; even with that, I felt like I went in there and did my job,” Villasenor said. “I hate to be biased, but I felt I won the fight. I just couldn’t believe it was given a draw.”
Trainer Greg Jackson asserted that Villasenor won the fight by doing more damage in the final round.
“The third round, if it’s a back-and-forth battle, who did the damage?” Jackson said. “Obviously, if you look at the stitch around [Camozzi’s chin] ... and he’s bleeding from his nose -- obviously, Joey did the damage.”
Villasenor received a small measure of vindication in his post-fight exchange with Camozzi. It was then that the Colorado native told his opponent that he felt Villasenor had won the fight.
“I didn’t get half of my win purse, because it wasn’t [technically] a win,” Villasenor said. “But it was worth it that my opponent acknowledged that he felt I won the fight.”
In the co-main event, middleweight UFC veteran Dave Branch methodically wore down Jeremy May for two and a half rounds before finishing the bout with strikes from the full mount at 3:19 of the third stanza.
Branch, coming off a loss to Rousimar Palhares at UFC Live 3, took the American Top Team-trained May down in each round. The match drew boos from the crowd as referee Robert Romero was forced to stand the competitors up after Branch often failed to capitalize on his position.
In the third round, Branch’s strategy paid off when he passed the “TUF 7” alum’s guard and finished the contest with punches.
In an earlier bantamweight bout, Fredrico Lopez of Murrieta, Calif., ignored the reach advantage of Jackson’s representative Bobby Huron to grind out a unanimous decision (30-27 on all three scorecards).
WEC veteran Frank Gomez notched his second straight victory by besting Houston native Timothy Snyder in a featherweight tussle. Gomez got a single-leg takedown early in the first round against Snyder. The Jackson’s product moved to side control before taking his opponent’s back, where he locked in a rear-naked choke and earned the submission at 3:19 of round one.
It was clear that Kyle Bracey wanted no part of a standup battle against Artenas Young in their middleweight scrap, but Young’s takedown defense was able to dictate the location of the fight. Young capitalized on Bracey’s last failed shot by cracking his opponent with a right hand and then pouncing to finish the bout with a barrage of strikes at 4:04 of the opening frame.
The first professional bout of the evening lasted just 14 seconds, as Jackson’s Lionel Lanham had Eric McElroy on the retreat almost as soon as they engaged.
The evening’s most competitive amateur fight was a 150-pound catchweight bout between Jackson’s MMA product Robbie Gutierrez and Russell Wilson from Albuquerque’s Tran-Lovato Gym. Gutierrez had the edge when the back-and-forth affair was upright, but Wilson controlled enough of the action from the ground to get a split-decision nod (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Albuquerque Kickboxing Academy product Freddy Crosby stopped Kasey Yates with punches at 1:11 of the opening frame in their featherweight bout.
Adam Gonzales took a submission victory over Zac Hynes at 2:48 of round one using a north-south choke in a middleweight contest.
Jackson’s MMA product Edgar Lopez landed a barrage of punches from full mount en route to a TKO victory at 2:22 of the opening round over Derek Perez at lightweight.
Silver City, N.M., native Randy Ray Sanchez defeated Jackson’s MMA representative Armando Mendibles via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27) at lightweight.